Michigan Soldier Builds Relationships in Afghanistan

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When Capt. Jim Blocker was deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army National Guard, he wanted to build more meaningful relationships than he had five years earlier on a peace-keeping mission to Iraq.

While the Army had sent him to help train police officers in Kandahar, Blocker was determined to make the most of his 12 months, showing love and kindness that his new friends would remember for years to come.

Capt. Jim Blocker distributes school supplies for Afghan children.

Once he arrived, Blocker, a member of River Walk Community CRC in Battle Creek, Mich., discovered that the Afghan people weren’t nearly as different as him as he expected.

On a daily basis, Blocker spent time with his neighbors, sharing meals or a cup of Chai tea.

Blocker also distributed educational supplies donated by his church and by a Battle Creek car dealership operated by fellow church member Tim Kool.

With a simple act of generosity, Afghan children came to know the Army officer as the kind American who constantly wore a smile on his face.

Because he cared for local children, Blocker began to earn the friendship of their parents, discovering that they weren’t so different from his friends in the United States. “The Afghans are an interesting, loving people,” Blocker said.

Blocker and his Middle Eastern neighbors spent hours talking about family and faith, finding common beliefs in those areas of life.

The people, he found, have a sincere reverence for Allah—or God—carried out in ways Blocker got to experience every day.

Blocker also spent time with the Taliban, learning that it was the conservative extremists who were responsible for many of the acts of terrorism that have come to characterize an entire population of people.

By the time he left, he had built relationships on a foundation of mutual respect.

“I really came to respect [the Afghan people] for what they believe,” Blocker said. “We may disagree in the details about what we believe, but we both share a love for God.”

About the Author

Jeff Arnold is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classes Kalamazoo and Lake Erie.

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